Where computers go, viruses follow. It isn't much of a surprise that the mobile technology revolution has spawned a subculture of viruses designed to cause malicious mischief in mobile tools and toys. A cell phone virus can function in much of the same ways as a conventional computer virus, installing harmful files on your phone. The popularity of proprietary operating systems has somewhat controlled the spread of mobile targeted viruses and other malware because viruses need to be designed to attack specific operating platforms, but that doesn't mean you're safe without protection.
Viruses can attack mobile devices in a number of ways: Often they're hidden in e-mail attachments like photos or games. When you install and open the attachment, you infect your phone. Bluetooth devices are another good vehicle for infection. The effortless two-way communication that makes Bluetooth technology so darned convenient also makes it easy for an infected Bluetooth enabled phone to connect to any other Bluetooth devices within range. Once connected, it can trick the user into downloading the virus onto a clean phone. Surfing suspicious sites can net you an infection, too.
Before you get too engrossed in the fun features of your mobile device, make sure your equipment and private information is protected. When it comes to being secure on the road, the options come in a few different flavors. From anti-virus apps that can locate your lost or stolen phone to full-featured apps that also encrypt your folders and files, the best mobile anti-virus is the one that suits your unique needs. You can find comprehensive protection for free, or pay a little for some nice extras.
Most anti-virus software is equipment specific, matched to the operating system built into the phone. Mobile devices require compatible anti-virus protection. Open-source operating systems like Google's Android or Microsoft's Windows Mobile may offer more potential anti-virus products but still lock you out of some applications whose names you may recognize or whose products you've used before.
On the next page, we'll break down how to choose a mobile anti-virus app, as well as give you some specifics about the various options on the market.
Anti-virus App Options
The first step in choosing the best mobile anti-virus is to discover what compatible products offer the features you want. This brief primer will give you an idea of some of the major players in the mobile anti-virus protection market. Typically, anti-virus programs are available for purchase with an annual subscription charge that includes regular updates, for free (which may have limited functionality) or free to try for a limited time:
Norton Mobile Security -- One of the big names in PC anti-virus protection, Norton offers mobile device security, too. In addition to anti-virus and malware protection, Norton Mobile Security has a lock-out option for unwanted calls and messages, remote find and remote locking if your device is stolen. There's also a wipe feature to remove all your data from a stolen device. It works with Android 2 or later and requires 1.8 MB of storage. It's also available in a free LITE version [source: Norton Symantec].
Kaspersky Mobile Security -- Provides real time virus protection, spam protection, data encryption, anti-theft features, firewall protection and parental controls. Kaspersky Mobile Security 9 works with BlackBerry: 4.5 through 6.0, Symbian^3 (or Series 60 9.1, 9.2, 9.3, 9.4), Android: 1.6 -2.2 and Windows Mobile 5.0 - 6.5. This one isn't free, though. If Kaspersky is running a promotion, their mobile package can cost as little as $15. Otherwise, you'll pay around $30 for protection [source: Kaspersky Lab].
BitDefender Mobile Security -- With install and on-demand scanning, an event viewer, anti-theft protection and an application audit function that will alert you to potential software charges, BitDefender Mobil Security is a useful and easy to use mobile security app that's gentle on your battery. It's free in BETA and works with Android devices.
ESET Mobile Security -- ESET offers a comprehensive mobile package with principal and portable memory scanning and evaluation of files loaded via Bluetooth, Wi-Fi or infrared. It includes firewall, remote wipe and spam guard features. It also has a neat set of general tools like file quarantine and a disk space and battery level checker. ESET Mobile Security requires 1 MB of free memory and supports Windows Mobile 5.0, 6.0, 6.1 and 6.5; Symbian S60 3rd Edition Feature Pack 1 or 2; Symbian S60 5th Edition and Symbian^3. It's a little pricy at $59.99, but you can check out all the useful features for 30 days before you buy [source: ESET].
BullGuard Mobile Security 10 -- Provides virus and spyware protection and monitors your calendar and contact list for suspicious activity. This one also includes a phone tracking and wiping function, spam guard, firewall and parental controls. It supports BlackBerry, Motorola Nokia, Sony Ericsson, HTC, Samsung and others. Firewall and spam filter options are only available on Symbian and Windows Mobile platforms. You can try BullGuard Mobile Security 10 free for 15 days. After that, a yearly subscription will cost $30 [source: BullGuard].
AVG Mobile Anti-Virus -- This one is a free Android app that will check for and clean out viruses, schedule automatic scans and use GPS to locate a lost or stolen phone and remotely lock or wipe its content. It's an AVG anti-virus product, so if you've been using AVG on your desktop or notebook, you'll feel right at home. For under $10, you can upgrade to their AntivirusPro, which contains anti-spam and anti-phishing functions, too. Droid Security is compatible with Android devices [source: AVG Mobilation].
AhnLab Mobile Security -- From AhnLab, this mobile security software offers protection from worms and viruses. It provides real time anti-virus monitoring, anti-spam and URL filtering. Currently, AhnLab does not provide a free version or trial version of this product. AhnLab Mobile Security is compatible with Symbian, Windows Mobile, and Palm OS platforms [source: AhnLab].
This list isn't exhaustive. If you don't see something you like, you might also want to check out: Antivirus Free (by Creative Apps for Android), GuardX Free Antivirus (by QStar for Android), Lookout Mobile Security Free (for Android, Blackberry and Windows Mobile) and NetQin Mobile Antivirus (for Android, Windows Mobile and Symbian).
The best mobile anti-virus app on the market can still leave you vulnerable to new threats if you don't develop safe practices when using your mobile devices. Like locking your car door or engaging the emergency brake on a hill, some precautions should become habits you don't have to stop to think about. Consider developing these safe practices:
- Avoid installing pirated software.
- Update your anti-virus software regularly.
- Be on the lookout for anti-virus patches and upgrades.
- Be careful of any app, app update, email attachment or other download that comes from an unknown source.
Now that you understand a little about the mobile anti-virus products on the market, check your mobile device to clear up any potential compatibility issues and compose your wish list. There are quite a few free options, and even if you have to pay a nominal fee for protection, this is one bargain you can't afford to pass up.
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